Vancouver play review

Samantha Hill & Adrian Marchuk; Photo by David CooperLight in the Piazza
Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel
Book by Craig Lucas
Direction and musical staging by Peter Jorgenson
Musical Director Sean Bayntun
Patrick Street Productions
Annette and Norman Rothstein Theatre
Sept 15 to  Oct 9th, 2011

Vancouver, BC: In musing about my response to the show, I finally concluded that I really admired the production but was a little disappointed in the work itself. So what on earth do I mean by that? In brief, the production values from cast, musicians and the creative/technical teams were excellent but I just could not connect with the music.

Samantha Hill & Adrian marchuk. Photo by Ross den OtterI guess for me contemporary show music is a bit like drinking an ultra-dry Alsace style Gewürtztraminer or Riesling versus one from the Mosel or Rheingau. Both may be exceptional quality but I enjoy the latter far more. Having read previous critical raves about Guettel's music I was hoping, and I think, expecting, the melodic music of the old style musicals, from which tunes continue to play in my head long after I have left the theatre. Instead, as several of us agreed, we enjoyed the orchestral music and admired the ability of the cast to sing those intricate songs but the songs were not memorable, at least to our musically unsophisticated ears.

Bob Frazer as Richard III. Photo by David BlueRichard III by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kathryn Shaw
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
Douglas Campbell Studio Stage, Vanier Park.
July 13 to September 23, 2011

Vancouver, BC. At the end of Henry VI: The War of the Roses, I left the Studio Stage theatre looking forward to seeing Bob Frazer as the unrepentantly villainous Richard in the concluding play of Bard's Kings History Play Cycle, Richard III. 

The day of the show's opening was also the first 7 hour marathon day of the intermediate level wine course I am taking. While we learned about regions and varietals, we also tasted 18 wines, 9 during the morning and 9  in the afternoon session. I rushed home to change and made it to Vanier Park in time to pick up The Merchant's Antipasto picnic basket from Emelle's Catering, and wolf it down before the show began. I was worried that sheer exhaustion plus whatever alcohol could be left in my system might cause me to nod off but to the contrary, I was riveted throughout the show and could not take my eyes off the stage.

Mention Richard III to most people and whether or not they have seen  Shakespeare's play, they associate his name with the murder of the young Princes in the Tower of London. It's like Medea. Mention her name and the first association is infanticide  not the complex and multi-faceted nature of this woman. So leaving aside the little princes, what is this Richard all about?

Andrew Laurenson and chorus. Photo by Michael SiderBEUTFL PRBLMS - a collectively devised production written by and performed by Andrew Laurenson, with Lesley Ewen, Billy Marchenski and Emelia Symington Fedy.
Director/dramaturge Paul Ternes
Radix Theatre Society
The Roundhouse Community Centre
May 13 to 21, 2011

Vancouver, BC:  The premise of this new work - Garry Kasparov's loss of a chess series to a computer - sounded intriguing. I was eager to see the way in which Laurenson and his collaborators would create a spellbinding story from this event. In May 1997, chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, world champion for twelve years running, took on the challenge of beating IBM's Deep Blue Supercomputer. Of the 6 games played, Kasparov won the first game, Deep Blue the second, three were played to a draw and the final game was won by Deep Blue. Had technology triumphed over humanity? Well not really. Since Deep Blue was designed and programmed by a team of 5 IBM scientists and one International Grandmaster, it would be more fair to say that one man was beaten by a collective.

Camille Mitchell as Mrs. Robinson. Photo by David CooperThe Graduate - adapted for stage by Terry Johnson
based on the novel by Charles Webb
and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
Directed by Lois Anderson,
Granville Island Stage,
Arts Club Theatre Company,
Apr 14- May 14 , 2011

Vancouver, BC:  It is always an interesting anticipation when one  looks at an adaptation of a work in one genre into another form, whether book to film, film to musical or film to play. It becomes even more of an interest when the new work is adapted from an iconic original. 

Peter Anderson rides the Giant Windmill; Photo by Emily CooperDon Quixote
By Colin Heath and Peter Anderson
Directed by Roy Surette
Adapted from the novel by Miguel de Cervantes
A co-production of the Arts Club and Centaur Theatre Companies in association with Axis Theatre.
Granville Island Stage
Sept 23 to Oct 23, 2010

Vancouver, BC: As a life-long compulsive reader whose greatest pleasure from childhood was to journey into the imaginary worlds I discovered in books, how could I not find myself heart and soul in sympathy with the deluded seventeenth-century gentleman, Alonso Quixano, who becomes the "knight errant, Don Quixote de la Mancha" and sets out to right the wrongs of the world. In my more cynical moments, I might even wonder how many of us today, trying to do our bit to make our little piece of the world a "better" place, find that we are but tilting at windmills.

Loretta Walsh and Andrew Coghlan as Dawn and JeffLobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Kelly-Ruth Mercier
Dirty Manhattan Equity Co-op
Havana Theatre
Sept 29 to Oct 16, 2010

Vancouver, BC: My only previous exposure to a  Kenneth Lonergan play was four years ago and at that time This is My Youth brought forth a rant rather than a rave. So I had prepared myself for more of the same with Lobby Hero.  But instead I thoroughly enjoyed this production. I thought the script dealt with some really interesting issues, the set design made excellent use of the black box space,  and the actors gave very creditable performances.

Rachel Scott: Guest Reviewer

Christopher Domig as SadDirt. Written by Robert Schneider
Directed by David Robinson
Performed by Christopher Domig
Designed by Daniel Domig
Translated by Paul Dvorak
Presented by Dreck Productions and incarNATION
at the Vancouver Fringe Festival
 

DIRT, presented by Dreck productions and INCARnation at this year's Vancouver Fringe, is the disjointed, emotional portrayal of an Iraqi immigrant's alienation in the West. This one-man show was written Robert Schneider in the 1990's as an expose of the tensions surrounding immigrant Iraqis during the first gulf war. Twenty years later, the story still resonates, as relations between the Arab world and the West remain complex and fraught.

The cast of Robin HoodRobin Hood by Sebastian Archibald
Directed by Chelsea Haberlin
Itsazoo Productions
Queen Elizabeth Park - at the Bloedel Conservatory
 August 4-7, 10-14 and 17-19, 2010 at 7:00 pm.
Run extended  - 25th to 28th August

Vancouver, BC: It is definitely becoming one of  Vancouver's  summer theatre traditions - a promenade play by Itsazoo Productions in Queen Elizabeth Park. With the natural scenery of the park as the stage, the audience follows members of the company along pathways and grassy areas as the story moves from scene to scene. Company playwright Sebastian Archibald adapts and creates the stories from varied sources.

Christine Willes as Clara Epp. Photo by Tim MathesonHerr Beckmann's People by Sally Stubbs
Directed by Katrina Dunn
A Flying Start production from Playwrights Theatre Centre and Touchstone Theatre
Playwrights Theatre Centre Studio
June 10-19, 2010

Vancouver, BC: The world premiere production of Herr Beckmann's People by Vancouver playwright, Sally Stubbs, is on this week at Festival House on Granville Island. A thought-provoking play sensitively performed by a strong cast, this is well worth seeing.

The play explores the choices made by a once close-knit family in Germany, before and during World War II, and how these choices continue to reverberate in the family psyche almost three decades later. A question that has been pondered ever since the realities of the Holocaust became known, is "how could ordinary people in an educated, cultured nation, participate in or facilitate the brutalities that were committed against their fellow human beings?"

Stephanie Dyck, Shannon Christopher, Lara Isaacson in The MisanthropeThe Misanthrope - a new adaptation of Moliere's play
by Tony Harrison
Directed by C.W. (Toph) Marshall
United Players
Jericho Arts Centre
June 4 to 27, 2010

Vancouver, BC:  British playwright Tony Harrison's version of Moliere's The Misanthrope has an interesting history that culminated in United Players getting to produce the world premiere of this adaptation.  Harrison first adapted The Misanthrope for London's National Theatre in 1973.  The current version of his script was commissioned for the Old Vic Theatre but the death of the director in 2006  shelved the project, and Marshall was able to get the rights to stage it for the first time, in Vancouver.

From a production perspective I think that The Misanthrope ends the United Players Season on a high note. The performances were excellent, the set  (a modern apartment in Washington) designed by Kyla Gardiner worked well and Jenny Lang's costumes were terrific, especially the gorgeous sexy dresses worn by the seductive Sally Mann (Lara Isaacson).  The sound design  by Dave Campbell has some interesting music choices - more about that in a bit.

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